Baseball wasn’t the primary focus for Tommy Hanson last season, the only one he spent in Anaheim after Atlanta traded him in November 2012.
Family came first for the right-hander after his stepbrother died unexpectedly early in the season. Hanson spent time on the bereavement list, but he struggled after he returned.
The episode isn’t something Hanson likes to talk about, as he did Friday in a conference call after signing a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers. But time has helped him heal emotionally, and he’s ready to compete for a spot that was thrown into turmoil when Derek Holland injured his left knee last month.
“I had the passing of my brother, and from then on it was just up and down,” Hanson said. “I think it’s a time issue. Mentally I don’t think I was where I needed to be. It wasn’t only me. My whole family was dealing with that, and it’s hard to see your family struggle.”
Hanson signed a split major-league deal worth $2 million plus incentives. The Rangers also signed designated hitter Mitch Moreland to a one-year deal worth $2.65 million to avoid arbitration.
Hanson went 4-3 with a 5.43 ERA in only 73 innings during a season that also included stints on the Angels’ restricted and disabled lists.
He showed increased velocity late last season, the result of tweaks to his oft-critiqued mechanics, and said that the ball has been coming out of his hand just as well during his off-season throwing sessions.
Hanson has eliminated a pause in his delivery in an effort to make his arm quicker. He also went back to the mechanics that helped him rise through the Braves’ system and put him on their no-trade list when talking with the Rangers about the famed 2007 deal for Mark Teixeira.
“I just went back to the basics for me,” Hanson said. “I tried to quicken my arm up, and I think that helped. The last two outings I made out of the bullpen I was throwing a lot harder. It feels good doing that. The ball seems to be coming out good.”
Hanson will compete with several other candidates to replace Holland, who is out until at least the All-Star break after having microfracture surgery Jan. 10. Colby Lewis, Nick Tepesch, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers are also vying for a spot in the rotation.
“We’ve got a lot of guys we like, but, admittedly, a lot of them have issues coming off last year,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “I feel good saying we have a lot of winning pieces on the major-league club, and it’s going to be a fun process sorting through it and making decisions this spring.”
Hanson said that having to compete for a job after being a sure thing for the Braves’ and Angels’ rotations since 2009 will give him an extra shot of adrenaline.
“The Rangers have a great team, and we thought that was going to be the best fit for me to go in and make the rotation,” said Hanson, who is 49-35 with a 3.80 ERA in his career. “I think competition pushes people. Whether I have a job or don’t have a job, I want to come in and do the best I can. I want to get there and start working. I’m ready for baseball.”
The Rangers placed Joseph Ortiz, who made the Opening Day roster last year as a reliever, on the 60-day disabled list to create a 40-man spot for Hanson.
Ortiz suffered a broken left foot last month when it was run over by a motorcycle in Venezuela. Though he was placed on the 60-day disabled list before spring camp even opened, he must spend the first 60 days of the season on the DL.